‘Four’midable challenge

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FOUR local men set themselves a ‘four’midable challenge when they took on the four highest peaks in Ireland’s four provinces in just four days.

Colin Morris, Neil Sharpe, Mike Stewart and Deane Woods recently took on the challenge in aid of Southern Area Hospice Services.

Mike provided the ‘MAIL’ with a first hand account of the many peaks and troughs encountered on the way:

“A few months ago, climbing the highest peak in each of Ireland’s four provinces in four days seemed an excellent idea. It was a great opportunity to challenge ourselves, explore Ireland, get some much needed exercise and raise money for a good cause.

“As we climbed Slieve Donard on Sunday, rain lashing down, feet sodden, muscles burning and wind cutting through us, a realisation set in. I really wish I was home watching the tennis right now.

“Day One: Connaught - Weeks of record rainfall had left the approach to Mweelrea in a fairly bad state. At 814m, it was the shortest peak we would have to climb, but after trudging through bog for the first hour it was clear we weren’t quite as fit as we should have been. Some magic (jelly) beans and generous amounts of Lucozade gave us a boost and we continued on. It was worth it. The bog subsided, the sun was out and we had a magnificent view over Galway, Mayo and the Atlantic Ocean. One down, three to go. Now for a five hour drive towards the Ring of Kerry and Ireland’s highest mountain.

“The drive was broken up by a brief stop in Rathkeale, made famous from the Channel 4 show, My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding. There wasn’t a caravan in sight, but every driveway had an immaculate tarmac finish.

“Day Two: Munster - At 1038m, Carrountohill is the highest peak in Ireland. It is also covered in cloud over 300 days a year. Imagine our surprise that morning to open our curtains to see glorious sunshine.

“As ever with an Irish summer, the sun did not stay around for long. We hiked up through a valley and climbed the infamous Devils Ladder in overcast conditions. From there it was a 400m ascent to the summit. For a few brief minutes around 4pm we were the highest men in Ireland. The clouds broke briefly to give us an excellent view of the Magillacuddy Reeks Mountain range. A slight detour on our descent took longer than expected and we didn’t arrive into Cork until after 11pm that evening. Ambitious plans of a big night out in Ireland’s second largest city were put on hold, though there was always time for a solitary pint.

“Day Three: Leinster - We woke to news of three weeks of rainfall in Leinster the previous day. With flash floods in Newcastle on Thursday, starting in Connaught instead of Ulster suddenly seemed an ingenious idea. We were expecting more boggy ground and a long day ahead of us, but instead the sun came out. The 925m climb to the top of Lugnaquilla had spectacular views and we were up and down in under five hours.

“With only one mountain to go, we wondered if our luck would hold out with the weather, or would Ulster lose out to Leinster yet again.

“Day Four: Ulster - Rain. Lots of rain. Slieve Donard is a slog at the best of times but the last thing we wanted after three mountains and 900 miles on the road was a miserable day. We had all been up Donard many times, but it seemed slightly steeper and higher than usual. It was also not the best time to find out your ‘waterproof’ jacket was in fact anything but. The final few hundred meters up to the 850m summit was brutal, but we got there eventually.

“We arrived back to the carpark to a champagne reception and lots of cake. Maybe not such a bad way to spend a Sunday after all.”

The money raised to date will go Southern Area Hospice Services who provide invaluable support and care to people living within the Southern Health Board Area, who are suffering from Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Motor Neurone Disease and AIDS. Their aim is to provide the best quality of life for patients and their families.

To donate to this worthy cause go to www.justgiving.com/4peakchallenge2012